Review by C.J. Bunce
Forty-five years after author Max Allan Collins published his novel Quarry’s Deal in 1976, he has penned another sequel, Quarry’s Blood, arriving from publisher Hard Case Crime next week, the 16th novel chronicling the circuitous, dark and grimy future of the Vietnam vet whose return from the service wasn’t at all what he expected, which would become the subject of a Cinemax television series (reviewed here at borg in 2019). The great thing about Collins’ crime stories? Readers have so many ways to get their fix, including his Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer novels, his Nolan novels, at least four other book series and standalone novels, the most popular being his Road to Perdition (browse our reviews of several here at borg). Quarry’s Blood, despite being the 16th book in a series, is both a nostalgia fix and incredibly fresh and up-to-date, catching up with Quarry pushing 70 in a post-COVID existence in 2021. And it’s enough of a shake-up for his titular hero that it could well be a set-up for a James Bond, Jr.-type spin-off series.
The story begins with a flashback to Quarry and a familiar Broker story back in 1983. The difference is the hit is Luann, the character readers could imagine he might end up with, although he didn’t–sort of. No, readers soon learn Quarry was able to live a normal life for 15 years, only the woman he’d spend most of his time with has her life cut short by the COVID virus. So what’s left for the former hired gun as year 70 approaches?
Just after his wife’s death, a woman appears on his doorstep who claims to know his entire history, including all the dirty little secrets. He could just kill her, but she’s not the only one who has discovered his secret hideout. Did she bring someone else to find him? Did they follow her? This is Collins’ most “meta” journey yet. Quarry–only a few years younger than author Collins–spent years writing his personal exploits as “sleazy” crime novels. It’s no surprise an enterprising journalist figured out how close the stories paralleled the real-life dead bodies stacked up in Eastern Iowa. Quarry is familiar with the woman at his doorstep, because she re-wrote his stories as non-fictional accounts. Now she wants to finish his story. Somethings about her tells him not to kill her. Fortunately for both of them, as they work together to learn who tried to kill him at his home.
Does it all lead back to Luann? Collins strings us there and back again as he sends Quarry across the country revisiting who wants him dead the most, using his knowledge of Midwest locations sure to draw in those familiar with them, past and present.
Quarry’s Blood is a serving of more of that gritty tone and realism Collins fans will be accustomed to reading, with doses of violence and sleaze and sex typical of the series.
Artist Ron Lesser provides another great painted cover for this latest entry in the Hard Case Crime library.
Recommended for fans of crime novels, Collins’s writing, the Quarry TV series and novels, and anyone looking for that first great post-pandemic, real-world read, pick up Quarry’s Blood now in its first ever printing, delayed from its originally intended November release, available next week here at Amazon. We keep hearing each new Quarry novel is the last, but with the new character introduced in this story, hopefully that’s far, far away.